How do you define integrity?
Merriam-Webster defines it as “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.” On the very first episode of The Sentiment Series, behavioral expert Dr. Pam Cohen defined it as “doing the right thing when no one is watching.”
No matter how you define it, integrity plays a huge role in your business—from the diversity and inclusivity to the turnover rate, the productivity, and even the bottom line.
That’s why, out of all the topics relating to workforce perception, HR analytics, and employee engagement tools, we chose to highlight integrity first. Dr. Cohen has spent years measuring employer integrity, and after all of that research, she has found that integrity ultimately comes down to performance. When employees believe that their employer has integrity, they feel better and work harder.
But what if they don’t believe in their employer’s integrity?
During our conversation, Dr. Cohen listed out a number of consequences that an organization has to deal with if its integrity is compromised, including:
- A bad reputation
- Low employee morale
- Employees who only do the bare minimum until they can find another job
- Challenges with diversity, equity, and inclusion
- Dramatic drops in return on investment (ROI)
When you look at it that way, integrity can be the tipping point between success and failure.
Let’s take a closer look at how it affects workforce perception...
In today’s world, employees don’t climb the corporate ladder at one organization for decades and retire with a big pension and a send-off party with cake and balloons. These days, leaving an organization after just a few years is totally normal, instead of the stain on your resume it may have been 20 or 30 years ago. Plus, employees have grown very diligent about protecting their own personal brands, and working for an organization that’s known to lack integrity can hurt them. And, as Dr. Cohen pointed out in our episode, the pandemic has given us all plenty of time at home to take a step back and think about what we really want, especially in our careers.
In other words, integrity is going to play a huge role in your workforce perception—and if it’s low, you’re going to have to spend time and money replacing employees who can’t leave fast enough. And that doesn’t even include all of the money you’re leaving on the table with decreases in productivity or with a non-inclusive culture that makes employees afraid to think outside the box.
How do you combat all of these consequences?
Take a step back and evaluate your organization’s processes, frameworks, and strategies. One of the key takeaways from our conversation with Dr. Cohen is that employer integrity has a trickle-down effect. It starts at the very top, with empathy, sincerity, and transparency, but it also needs to trickle down to middle management because those are the people who are ultimately responsible for the employee experience. You could have the most empathetic and sincere CEO in the world, but if those qualities aren’t passed down through the entire org chart, employees won’t experience any of them.
So what do organizations with integrity look like? How does it feel to work there on a daily basis?
During our conversation, Dr. Cohen listed a number of positive actions that occur in organizations that have integrity, including:
- Seeing and treating each other as human beings
- Taking a holistic view of employees, instead of thinking of them as cogs in a wheel that merely clock in and out every day
- Creating open and honest dialogue at all levels
- Doing little things to make employees feel valued, like quick email check-ins
Want even more tips and deeper insights into Dr. Cohen’s research? Want actionable advice that can help boost your own workforce perception?
Check out our entire conversation in Episode 1 of The Sentiment Series.